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Swims in the 'Hotties' and shards stuck in their hair: Memories of Pilkington Glass

Liverpool Echo logo Liverpool Echo 08/05/2021 Jess Molyneux

Pilkingtons has been at the forefront of glass making technology for around 200 years and no place is more associated with glass than St Helens.

It's legacy began in 1826, when St. Helens Crown Glass Company was formed by John William Bell and capital was raised from three wealthy families who lived in the area. By 1886, William Pilkington was one of the original shareholders.

Pilkington Brothers soon went from strength to strength, producing three times more glass than anywhere else in the UK, with a large wealth of history to follow.

After industry advancements and company expansion around the globe, in the 1970s its shares were listed on the London Stock Exchange and 36 years later de-listed, becoming a wholly-owned subsidiary of the NSG Group, which it still is today.

In 2015, the ECHO was also granted an exclusive tour of Pilkington's Greengate site just south of central St Helens, a factory able to produce 180,000 tonnes of glass a year.

We put a call-out on social media asking residents across St Helens for their memories of Pilkington Glass over the years.

'You can purchase a copy here of the 64 page special packed with nostalgic photos and articles from your local area'.

Images provided by St Helens Archive Service, also offers a glimpse into Pilkington's legacy throughout the decades.

The historic pictures, spanning over two decades, show staff of the time, inside and outside the different branches and more.

In the 1950s, staff can bee seen coming out of work or being part of the Pilkington Brothers Pension Scheme.

Fast-forward to the 1970s, a young boy can be seen fishing in the Ravenhead branch of the St Helens Canal, close to Pilkington PLC Glass Works and the "Hotties."

a group of people standing in front of a building: Black and white glass negative photograph of Pilkington Brothers Pension Scheme, circa 1955 © Geoff Williams Photography Collection, St Helens Archive Service Black and white glass negative photograph of Pilkington Brothers Pension Scheme, circa 1955

Some residents across St Helens shared memories of when they worked there.

Lucille Major commented: "I started as messenger at Grove Street, Head Office in 1963.

"After six months, I was transferred to the Research and Development, Mechanical Engineering Development Department drawing office, where I trained to be a tracer and was later given the opportunity to go to St. Helen's Technical College to study General Engineering H1 & H2.

"Lots more to tell about working in the busy Watson Street area, especially in a male dominated department in the heart of Sheet Works.

"My old place of work was on the site now occupied by the hotel, next to what was the "hotties".

"More memories than time to tell them in on here."

a group of people standing in a kitchen: Black and white photograph of Pilkington Brothers Limited canteen, Canal Street Works, 1954 © St Helens Archive Service Black and white photograph of Pilkington Brothers Limited canteen, Canal Street Works, 1954

Anthony Clisham said: "I started at Pilkington's in 1956 as an apprentice glass cutter.

"My apprenticeship took me to different works. I became a journeyman in 1962. When the machines came in my trade died. I became a supervisor over the cutting machines that took my job. Worked for Pilkingtons for 42 years. Now I am a tour guide for them and still working at 79."

Do you have any memories of Pilkington Glass in St Helens? Let us know in the comments section.

a large long train on a steel track: Black and white photograph showing Pilkington Brothers Limited Works, St Helens. June 28, 1961 © St Helens Archive Service Black and white photograph showing Pilkington Brothers Limited Works, St Helens. June 28, 1961

Frederica Mary Crawford posted: "I started my Pilkington life in January, 1970 in the Quality Control department of Pressed Glass in Ravenhead Works, staying there for two years.

"This was followed by 18 months in the Pricing Section of Fibreglass Sales at HO, then 19 years in Employee Relations in Group HQ when the job was declared redundant.

"This brought me to 1992 and between then and 1997 I did a variety of temporary jobs, taking my redundancy in January of that year, only to be invited back one week later by Pensions Dept for another temporary position.

"We are now in 1999 and I had a couple of jobs outside the 'firm' but was called back at the end of 1999 to cover a maternity leave in Group Accounts which took me to December 2000 and the end of my association with the "Glass Giants" of St. Helens."

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One resident said they still have a present they received from the Pilkington site in the town.

Jenny Wilson said: "Still have a Pilkington glass vase, bought for me 50 years ago, from their shop on site."

water next to the building: Colour photograph of a young boy fishing in the Ravenhead branch of the St. Helens (Sankey) Canal close to Pilkington PLC Glass Works and the Hotties © St Helens Archive Service Colour photograph of a young boy fishing in the Ravenhead branch of the St. Helens (Sankey) Canal close to Pilkington PLC Glass Works and the Hotties

Like many factories across Merseyside, Pilkington Glass also employed workers from the same family, sometimes numerous across different generations.

And many families in St Helens still have fond memories of loved ones working their.

Susan Pearson posted: "My dad Vincent Pearson worked at Pilks loading wagons with glass on a night I would stand at the back of his chair and pick pieces of glass out of his head."

Pilkington Brothers Limited Watson Street Glass works. Circa 1970s © St Helens Archive Service Pilkington Brothers Limited Watson Street Glass works. Circa 1970s

Mary Howard said: "My hubby worked at Pilks for years. I also worked there for years in the sewing room, loved it."

Tony Beaman said: "My great-great grandfather William Blanshard was the first Works Manager of P.B.'S in 1830.

"He was headhunted or whatever they did to recruit in those days, to leave South Shields together with other glassworkers from the area including a lady who became my great-great grandmother called Elizabeth Henderson.

"There was a member of my Blanshard ancestors working there from 1830 until 1962- the last one being my uncle Albert James Blanshard who worked at Eccleston Grange on Prescot Road."

Got a St Helens story? Email jessica.molyneux@reachplc.com

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